I’ve had two rather odd experiences lately. And I’m thinking today about how much we, as parents, have the obligation to protect our children from other kids, and how much we should step back and let them fend for themselves. Because if we don’t ever step back – will they be able to handle it on their own? Where do you draw the line between protecting your child and fighting their battles for them?
The first occurred while Sammy was in a childcare room over the weekend. Another kid threw a toy across the room, deliberately, and it hit my poor boy on the temple. It broke the skin, and infuriated me in a way that few things do. Hurt my boy? Are you kidding me? I really wanted to scream back at the kid, or even better, go find the parents and scream at them. But I didn’t, I just got ice for his poor little head and snuggled him a lot and resorted to glaring. I wonder now if maybe I should have done more. Not screamed at the kid, but been more forceful with the parents. I don’t like confrontation, and there was a part of me that felt like confronting them wasn’t going to make it okay. It wasn’t going to help his head, and probably would only end up making me madder. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Not just because my son was hurt, but also because neither of the parents apologized or made sure that the little boy did.
The second situation involves my Jessie. Because she’s so sweet, and because she always sort of feels a little out of place in social settings. There’s a new girl in her class this year, and it’s just not working out for my girl. This new girl is a strong personality, and very quickly began to dominate the social circle of fourth grade girls. And Jessie is at a loss – this girl alternates between telling Jessie she’s her best friend, and thus Jessie can only hang out with her, or deciding that she hates Jessie and telling everyone else that they can’t talk to her either. What to do with that? I tried, calmly, to convince Marc to go beat her up for me, but he stubbornly refuses. I tried talking to Jessie, telling her that she’s stronger than she thinks, and that nobody gets to tell her who she can talk to, and she should stand up for herself – but I know damn well she won’t. She’s a pushover at times, like her mother. Which just reminds me of the situation I described above – I should have said something, and I didn’t. Is it any wonder my daughter feels helpless when someone behaves badly?
Am I teaching them to walk away from fights that need to be fought? Am I allowing behavior that should be stopped to continue unchecked? If I was in the other parents’ shoes, at least in the first situation, I know that I’d want to know. I’d have immediately apologized profusely, checked to make sure that the other child wasn’t hurt, and made sure that my kid was appropriately disciplined. But in the second situation, I’m a little unsure of myself. Because Jessie is older, and because it’s not as clear cut. Is the problem this other kid, who’s certainly being a jerk, or is the problem that Jessie is letting this kid walk all over her because she’s new and and Jessie would rather be hurt than take the risk of hurting someone else? It’s not a toy being thrown across the room and breaking the skin. It’s hurt feelings and little kid cruelty – which doesn’t make it any easier to take, and certainly makes it tougher to decide on the right course of action.
I don’t have any answers today – just reminding myself of why I think infancy is the easiest. The problems have clear solutions. They might be tough to implement, but you know, absolutely, what to do. Change the diaper, pick up the screaming baby. The bigger they get, the harder it is to know exactly what you’re doing. Should you step back and let your child feel her way thru it with just pep talks at home for support, or do you get more involved? Do you approach the school, talk to the teacher, convince your husband to go beat her up?